16 Tips for Writing a Stellar Resume

Tips for Writing a Stellar Resume

Whether you’re looking for a part-time job or a full-time position, you know there’s one thing you need to help you make it past the first cut – a stand-out resume. Even fast food restaurants have begun to request resumes for part-time positions. No matter the job you’re applying for, a resume is a way for you to make a good first impression. Even a tiny mistake could cost you the job. Whether you’re writing your first resume or looking to spruce up an existing resume, we’ve come up with some tips to help yours represent you well.

1. Keep it Short

Potential employers don’t have time to read through tons of lengthy resumes. Keep your resume to one or two pages. If it is two pages, print your resume on a double-sided piece of paper rather than stapling it together. Keeping your resume short means you may have to remove that detail about being president of the drama club in high school or highlight only your most relevant job experience. It doesn’t mean that you should decrease the font size so you can fit everything. A potential employer shouldn’t need a magnifying glass to read your resume.

2. Make it Skimmable

Many employers aren’t going to read every single word you include in your resume. Instead, they’ll skim your resume for relevant information. Use headers to highlight each section and put the most relevant sections near the top. Most resumes will start with an objective and move straight into job history. However, if you’re applying for a job that values education or volunteer experience more than job history, put those sections first. Within each section, use bullet points rather than paragraphs to add pertinent information. If your resume is more than one page, the most important information should all appear on page one.

3. Customize your Resume

While it may not be practical to create a new resume for each position you apply for, you should make sure your resume fits the job you want. You may want to have a few versions of your resume to fit different positions. For example, you may have one resume for part-time employment in a retail or fast-food establishment and another resume for managerial positions.

4. Use Action Words

Fill your resume with action words. Instead of saying “was responsible for” or “worked to provide,” start your main points with verbs that show an action. For example, “Developed a 30-second commercial that aired on 10 networks” or “Compiled a 20-page research report.”

5. Incorporate Buzzwords

If you’re applying for a job in a particular industry, try to incorporate buzzwords into your resume. For example, instead of saying “rang up customers at the register,” you might say, “skilled at using a POS system.” Make sure you know what the buzzwords mean and that you use them correctly. Otherwise, your resume won’t be taken seriously.

6. Include Specific Details

Rather than saying things like “managed funds” or “headed a team,” try to include specific details. For example, “managed a $10,000 account with 100% customer satisfaction” or “headed a team of 25 people and improved productivity by 20%.” These small details provide a clearer picture of what you actually did.

7. Highlight Your Accomplishments

When you’re describing your position at a past company, think beyond your job description and focus more on what you accomplished in the position. What did that company lose when you left? For example, were you just someone who filed papers or someone who improved office efficiency and organization?

8. Add Awards and Accolades

You don’t need to include every award you won in high school or college, but if there are awards you’ve won that are relevant to the job position, include them on your resume. For example, if you were named Miss Congeniality, you may want to include that on a resume for a customer service position. You can also include awards for volunteer service or honors such as becoming an Eagle Scout.

9. Tell the Truth

This point shouldn’t have to be made, but many people embellish the truth on their resumes. Potential employers can often see through those embellishments. If they can’t and you land an interview, any lies you told on your resume are likely to come out very quickly. If they do, you can guarantee you won’t get the job. It’s okay to make yourself look good, but don’t do it at the expense of being truthful.

10. Leave Off Negative Experiences

There’s no rule that says you have to include every job you’ve ever held or every experience you’ve ever completed on your resume. If you have a job you’d like to forget or a degree you didn’t finish, then leave it off. Your resume is designed to highlight your best self, so it pays to be selective in what you choose to include. By the same token, if a job you held isn’t relevant to the position you’re seeking, don’t include it. The only exception is if you don’t have any other job history.

11. Include Unique Details

If you have room, you can use space on your resume to include a little more about your interests and hobbies. The more quirky those interests and hobbies, the more likely you are to gain someone’s attention. For example, instead of “listening to music” as a hobby, you may want to say you’re a “connoisseur of modern hip-hop.” As with everything, make sure the interests and hobbies will not turn off a potential employer in your field. You should also be sure not to include anything illegal or in poor taste on your resume. For example, “attending frat parties” is not an interest that will impress a potential employer, although something like “participating in service activities with Sigma Chi” might.

12. Double-Check Your Contact Information

If a potential employer likes your resume and wants to contact you for an interview, they’ll look for a phone number or e-mail address. If even one number or letter is incorrect, you could miss the opportunity. Verify all of your personal information, from the spelling of your name to the area code in your phone number, to make sure the employer can reach you to request an interview.

13. Look for Typos and Grammatical Mistakes

Employers want to see a resume that is free from errors. Read over your resume multiple times to look for errors. Try reading it aloud to catch even more errors. Then ask a couple friends or family members to look over your resume too. The more eyes you have look at your resume, the more likely you are to catch any errors hiding within.

14. Tighten it Up

Once you’ve been over your resume, look for ways to tighten it up. For example, did you write in full sentences? Remove words like I, we, am, was, and that. Instead, use short, focused statements to get your point across. Make sure you weren’t redundant too. Instead of saying something multiple times, say it powerfully the first time.

15. Make it Clean

When you give your resume to a potential employer, you want it to look nice. If the ink is smeared or words run together, it’s likely to fall to the bottom of the stack. Print your resume on high-quality paper and make sure it’s free from wrinkles and other negative issues before handing it to an employer. Buy a nice folder to carry your resume in when you go to drop it off to an employer and give your resume a recognizable file name if you’re e-mailing it. Instead of resume.doc try LastNameFirstInitialResume.doc.

16. Align it with Online Profiles

Take some time to align your resume with your online profiles. Your LinkedIn profile or profile on another job search or networking site should not be an exact copy of your resume. Instead, consider your resume the overview and those sites as an opportunity to enhance your resume by adding more specific or colorful details and experience. An employer who looks up your LinkedIn profile after reading your resume will want to see something different in the hope of learning more about you. At the same time, your online profiles should not contradict any of the information on your resume.

Need some help writing your resume? Check out Help Teaching’s resume writing worksheets found in the Life Skills section of our website.

Posted By StacyZeiger

Stacy Zeiger is a former 8th grade ELA teacher turned curriculum and assessment designer who has developed items for many national assessments. She currently serves as Help Teaching's Manger of ELA Content. Stacy lives in South Jersey with her husband, two children, and eight cats. Her oldest son has autism.

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